Book of Abstracts
Media publics and anti-publics: who and what are our disciplines for?
To a remarkable degree, most disciplines in the humanities and social sciences still sit within a conceptual envelope solidified in the twentieth century, that has its origins in values and ideals established in the European Enlightenment. Yet the evidence all around is that this conceptual envelope no longer holds. The global rise of demagoguery, the normalisation of extreme incivility on social media, inaction on global warming, the rise in the west of right-wing extremism and its mainstreaming by far-right politicians, the spread of conspiracy theories through the COVID-19 pandemic, and the return of war to Europe, are among many factors that suggest the emergence of a new, post-normative era in global democratic politics. In this paper I analyse some of the forces that underpin this erosion of norms, focusing on the pivotal impact of networked digital media and its role in fostering the emergence of anti-publics hostile to democratic values, ideals, and politics. The humanities and social sciences, I argue, have a crucial role to play in addressing these issues but to be effective can no longer take as given the frames in which they were constituted and presently operate.
Video memory-mapping and photo-voice: participatory narratives of urban displacement
For many, travel is often not a choice. This is particularly true for those who are faced with forced migration due to war, natural disasters, or socioeconomic conditions. Contexts of forced migration complicates movement of people, as precarious mobility often lead to long-term displacement, statelessness, and refugees. A growing body of research, more commonly known as forced migration research, examines arts-based and participatory methods as approaches to co-creating narratives when documenting displacement. This presentation examines my research in Colombo, Sri Lanka, focusing on understanding how infrastructure can be made inclusive for the most marginalised in an overcrowded city (2017-23). Drawing on media research methods, mainly video memory-mapping and photo-voice, to document narratives of urban displacement due to war, economic, and postcolonial conditions, this project examines ways of knowledge production through participatory approaches to researching exclusion in urban cities. In forced migration contexts where unequal power relations and agency of displaced people become prevalent issues in the field, this presentation examines how participatory co-creation of narratives enable reflexive research that place participants at the centre of the research process as knowledge-holders.
Adieu local, welcome global! The tourist information websites of Melbourne and Salzburg
This paper addresses changes in the multimodal text design of websites of tourism advertising regional and local tourist destinations to an international market. While such websites exhibited high degrees of individual layout and text design in the first decade of the 21st century, websites of tourism nowadays reveal very similar, homogenized, uniform layouts and structures. This development can be described in terms of a development that is characterized by: the abolition of multi-panel left-to-right Given-and-New structures in favour of top-down Ideal-Real structures; a clear reduction of the number of items visible on the screen; a repetitive, homogenous arrangement of same-size visuals; a downgrading of the role of verbal text; an upgrading in verbal style and an increase of figures of speech. These global developments will be shown in a contrastive analysis of the official tourist information websites of Melbourne and Salzburg.
Indexing the extreme – discursive variables and the problem of contextuality
I discuss some problems that we have encountered during our efforts to systemise our reading of online discourses for the purpose of training natural language processing tools to recognise indicators of extremism. Most conceptualisations of extremism assume some sort of centre-periphery model, in which the more extreme positions are orientated around a ‘mainstream’ or normative centre of political expression. However, such models rely on several underlying assumptions that are rarely acknowledged but quite problematic when it comes to the practicalities of classification.
I describe three issues. First, these models confuse the type of variable they are meant to be describing, so that while they assume continuity in expression they also treat extremism as something discontinuous or separate. A second assumption is that discursive variables are normally distributed, so that for every extreme position on the right of politics (for instance) there will be equivalent positions on the left. This both requires the reader to make a decision over where the centre should be located and causes acute difficulties when evidence points more towards a non-normal distribution. Finally, these models attempt to describe a universal-abstract but must ultimately be deployed within a discursive context – in other words, like all readers, they must interpret the cultural and semiotic ‘situation’ of their readership.
I discuss these issues with some examples from our work and describe the process that we have developed for engaging with this dialectical problem of contextuality in a way that is sufficiently systematic to allow for the training of automated language models. I demonstrate why this approach should work theoretically and request advice to make it work better in practice.
Travel and Leisure Advertising – Promoting Holiday Destinations and Activities
Corpus-Based Approaches to the Study of Multimodal Genre Patterns
Travel and leisure ads promote modes of transport (flights/trains), holiday destinations and travel equipment, using a strategic combination of large images and little but rhetorically powerful text. If we seek to find out what’s typical of such ads, it won’t do to count buzzwords or capture recurrent phrasing. Instead, we must inspect the genre on many different levels of their multimodal organization, such as text structure, speech acts, image content and form, coherence and rhetorical operations between words and image elements, and potentially many more. The talk will present practical approaches to building a small ad-corpus, annotating it for various features, and analysing it for recurrent patterns and their relevance for the genre. The aim is twofold: open our eyes to how travelling is promoted, and map out ways in which text from the printed medium might be handled systematically.
Co-creating COVID Safe digital stories with older Asian migrants in Victoria, Australia
This presentation intends to reflect on observations made from my recently commenced project that co-created digital content about COVIDSafe behaviours and vaccination with older Chinese, Sri Lankan and Indonesian communities in Victoria, Australia. Funded by the State Victorian government and collaborating with community organisations, this project addresses the cultural-lingual gaps in Australia’s COVID-health communication, that timely health advises, and information were often not available to older migrants. Inspired by the Symposium’s theme, I take the journey of human migration as a form of life travel to consider how our participants’ creative practices and expression as a form of ‘travel writing’ that documented their in-placed experience of living through the COVID-pandemic in Victoria.
This project draws on the following three themes: Community building, Co-designing and Digital learning. These elements were found to be valued by older Asian migrants through my pilot studies about their digital connection and community building during COVID-lockdowns. There were three components to the projects: co-created short videos, photo competition and a virtual gallery and an in-person exhibition in March 2023.
All content were either co-created with or, entirely made and supplied by older Asian migrants of the three communities. The audiovisual co-creation can encourage older migrants to participate in the decision-making of sharing and distributing vital health advice and COVID-communication on the one hand, and to build trust and mutual-support mechanisms. The presentation will reflect on insights about how the practice of digital co-creation can facilitate a creative culture and mutual-support mechanism among older migrants to use technologies to stay connected and build community resilience during a time of crisis. Videos and photos of this project are available via the project’s website: https://cocreating-covidsafe.com.au/
The Grammar of Greenwashing and Ethicswashing in Big Tech
Keywords: sustainability, grammar, AI, greenwashing, ethicswashing
A number of studies such as Bevitori (2011) and Stöckl & Molnar (2017) have explored how environmental discourse is used by companies to “greenwash” their brand and shape public discourse around them in the media. Responsible Artificial Intelligence (AI) is presented as ethical production of new technology. What we frequently see instead is a form of “ethicswashing” where the language of ethics is used as a form of window dressing by companies while they buy time to fight legislation around ethical AI. Superficially it would seem that “greenwashing” and “ethicswashing” are similar in nature, having similar goals and purposes, but do they share rhetorical strategies? While corpus-based approaches have provided a rich insight into the semantics of “greenwashing” and the grammatical and rhetorical strategies used for these purposes, we currently know very little about the strategies for “ethicswashing”. While both seem similar at first, every context is different, and it may be that there are peculiarities in ethicswashing that require different strategies to identify and fight it. In this preliminary study, we take examples of #ethicswashing and #greenwashing from social media and compare the strategies used looking at contextual, rhetorical and grammatical similarities and differences. Based on our findings, which we report on here, we suggest strategies that might be used for identifying and responding to instances of both green- and ethicswashing.
Bevitori, C. (2011). ‘Jumping on the green bandwagon’: The discursive construction of GREEN across ‘old’ and ‘new’ media genres at the intersection between corpora and discourse. In Proceedings of the Corpus Linguistics Conference 2011-Discourse and Corpus Linguistics (pp. 1-19).
Stöckl, H. and Molnar, S. (2017) Eco-Advertising: The Linguistics and Semiotics of Green(-Washed) Persuasion in Fill, A., & Penz, H. (Eds.). (2017). The Routledge handbook of ecolinguistics. London: Routledge.
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